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How to repot a houseplant

How to repot a houseplant

When we think of caring for a plant, we usually think of watering and sunlight as the most important things. But repotting your plant is a crucial, often over-looked step in houseplant care that keeps your leafy companions healthy, flourishing, and alive for many years

Give your houseplants a new environment to thrive in, and with our easy-to-follow houseplant repotting guide, you don’t even need to be a green-thumbed expert to get the job done well

How to repot a houseplant

Why does a plant need repotted?

When your plant is in a pot, the roots have limited space to grow. Compost also breaks down over time, reducing the nutrients, air space, and water retention – all things necessary for a plant to flourish. If there isn’t enough space for the roots to grow, or if the compost is only giving off a limited amount of nutrients, then the plant’s growth can be stunted. Repotting your plant can give its roots more space to grow, plus a richer, more aerated and nutritious home to thrive in

Repotting your houseplant is also a great opportunity to check its root health and see if there are any issues, such as rotting, disease or larvae in the soil, so you can deal with it before it gets out of hand. Roots that become congested or start growing out of the holes at the bottom of a container can prevent water draining properly and cause root rot. You can prune a plant’s roots to get rid of any rotted part and to limit its size, but to stay healthy, a plant still needs to produce some level of new growth. This is why you should either repot your plant into a new, larger container, or into the same one after refreshing the soil and pruning the roots

Houseplant top tip:

‘Rootbound’ is the term used to describe when the roots of a plant become congested and tangled in its container, leaving it unable to grow or get enough nutrients, air and water. You can check if your plant is rootbound by carefully lifting it out of its container to see if the roots are spiralled around the bottom and sides of the soil 

When should you repot a plant?

Plants usually need repotted every 2-5 years, but this can change depending on how lively your plant is, the quality of compost it’s in, and the container size

A good indication that a plant needs repotted is when it becomes rootbound. Early spring is generally the best time to repot your plants, as this is the season they start growing

Houseplant top tip:

Repot your plants as soon as you buy them. Inspecting the roots as early as possible allows you to see if there are any underlying problems

How to repot a houseplant

Root pruning your plant

You might not want to repot your plant into a larger pot due to space, but your plants can remain healthy for years in the same pot if its roots are pruned. If the plant is rootbound, you’ll have to prune about a quarter of the outermost roots before repotting. A light trim every few years will keep your plants healthy


If root pruning isn’t suitable or necessary, you can just freshen up the soil instead as a quick way to improve a plant’s growing conditions. Lift the plant out of its pot and add a layer of fresh compost to the bottom. Make sure to remove as much of the old, loose soil from the sides and top of the rootball (the main mass of roots beneath the plant’s stem) as possible. Pop the plant back in the pot and fill up with new compost  

To repot a houseplant, you will need:

How to repot a houseplant

Step-by-step guide: how to repot a houseplant

STEP 1: Remove your plant from its container by gripping the main stems close to the soil. Hold the container down with one hand and gently lift the plant upwards, or place it on its side and carefully pull the plant out sideways. You can squeeze the sides of your container to break up the root ball and loosen up the soil if your plant feels a bit stuck  

STEP 2: Use your fingers to gently separate and loosen the roots, removing most of the old soil while doing so  

STEP 3: In your new pot, add a layer of fresh compost to the bottom for your plant to sit on. Hold the old container level with the new pot to see how much soil to place at the bottom - you want the top of the rootball to sit just below the rim of the pot. Add compost until it sits in the right position  

STEP 4: Place the plant in the new pot, making sure its roots are facing down. Fill in all the gaps in the sides with compost, firming it down as you go to remove air pockets. Tap the sides of your pot or gently tap it off a hard surface to make sure the soil is evenly distributed, and any hidden air pockets hidden are filled. Keep filling with compost until you get to the base of the plant and you’re sure there are no more air pockets. Don’t pile the compost around the stems or trunk of the plant – the roots near the surface should only be slightly covered  

STEP 5: Thoroughly water the new soil straight away until water comes out from the drainage holes  

Our houseplant expert's top tip:

Water your plant 24 hours before repotting, and take care to handle its roots carefully during the process to avoid transplant shock